Saturday, November 18, 2023
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the start of the annual convocation of deacons, where he installed a number of candidates in formation as lectors and acolytes. The Mass took place Nov. 18, 2023, at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.
“When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” Jesus’ question comes after a strong exhortation for us to pray always – and to pray without losing heart.
Now Jesus’ words are addressed to all his followers; but I think these words should have special resonance with all of us here, deacons, priests, acolytes and bishop. People do always ask us to pray for them – and for most people, to say “pray for me, deacon” or “pray for me, father” is more than just a social convention. When they ask for our prayers, they do so with an expectation that we will pray for them. After all, we are supposed to be kind of “professionals at prayer” aren’t we; especially because of our roles in the liturgy – as priests, deacons, and acolytes.
At Thanksgiving time, I send out a message by phone to all who are donors to the ABCD. I thank them for their support – and then I give them a special number they can call to request prayers. I usually get back enough requests to fill up two or three CDs. I solicit the support of the Pierced Heart Sisters and the cloistered Carmelites to assist me in remembering these requests before the Lord.
So, pray, pray always, and pray without losing heart!
But sometimes we do lose heart. We live in an age of instant coffee and instant messages; we tend to also want instant results – and so we can easily become impatient in prayer. We pray for peace; we pray for justice – but both peace and justice do take time to achieve. We must be careful not to give up too quickly. We hear the TV lawyers say, “I rest my case” – but they only do so after they finish presenting every argument, every shred of evidence. If they were to rest their case too early, they would risk losing.
Jesus in the parable of the widow before the unjust judge tells us, “Don’t rush to rest your case before God.” Keep on pleading your cause, keep on making your case, keep on praying with persistence.
As the Gospel parable suggests, prayer requires persistence. Prayer is hard because prayer is work. It is asking, seeking, knocking on the door. “The Lord said, ‘Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.’ Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?”
In the many difficulties and challenges we face in our daily lives, we have to be convinced that if the Lord takes us to it, he will take us through it.
Too often, we find in our people – and in ourselves – a rather simplistic, maybe even a pagan, understanding of prayer. We think of it as trying to change God’s mind. We think of prayer in terms of “Father, my will be done” and not in terms of “Father, your will be done.”
Think of a man on a boat, trying to bring it to the dock. As he approaches the dock or pier, he throws out a line so that a helper on the dock can tie it to a piling. He then pulls on the line – in doing so, the dock doesn’t come to him; rather in pulling on the line, he moves the boat towards the dock. Prayer isn’t pulling God towards us; it is pulling ourselves towards God – and if the waters are choppy, we’ve got to pull harder on the line. The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to change our minds, to change our hearts, our attitudes – and to bring them closer to God’s heart and to God’s way of thinking. The lack of peace and justice in the world, after all, is not God’s doing; its man’s doing. So, we’ve got to pull ourselves towards God – with persistence, and with confidence. Which is why prayer is hard work, and why it requires no little exertion – and persistence.
St. Gregory of Nyssa, an early Church father of the 4th century, said, “Prayer brings us close to God, and when we are close to God, we are far from the Enemy. Prayer safeguards chastity, controls anger, and restrains arrogance. It is the seal of virginity, the assurance of marital fidelity, the shield of travelers, the protection of sleepers, the encouragement of those who keep vigil, the cause of the farmer’s good harvest and of the sailor’s safety.”
Since we are Christians, we must pray as Christians. Every prayer must start from Jesus – it is he who prays in us; it is he who prays with us; it is he who prays for us.
Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” Prayer is investing in what we believe – if we pray, we will find faith. St. Augustine once said, “In order to pray, let us believe, and for our faith not to weaken, let us pray. Faith causes prayer to grow, and when prayer grows, our faith is strengthened.”
Or as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said:
The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.